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Psychology of early retirement
Old 10-21-2008, 09:46 AM   #1
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Psychology of early retirement


I have come to the realization that this recession has been good for me as it has broadened my perspective on retirement and my outlook on life. Truth be known I enjoy work. Maybe not the work I am currently doing but work in general. I know this may be heresy on this board but that’s Ok.

The stock market, and in general the outcome, whatever that is, will have little bearing on my life as my portfolio will only enhance my life, not shape it. My retirement is secure as I have a pension.


Here is the crux of the issue. I think the idea of retirement has become an escape from reality, perhaps from a job that does not fully consume my work hours, maybe from a life that has been dulled by a lack of adventure over the last few years as I delayed a certain level of enjoyment for an earlier retirement.

It is becoming evident that the lifestyle I want is not a sub-par existence so I can have a great retirement. I need some sort of adventure to sustain a deep seated feeling that my life has meaning. The prospect of retiring in ten years to fulfill my adventures echoes hollowly with my desire to live life well now, and as long as possible. Large sacrifices now for a leisurely future, is starting to look like the wrong path for me.

It appears to me I could let my portfolio grow without adding too much more to it, work, and spend more of my available funds (not living above my means) on enhancing my enjoyment. Living well now and not delaying my satisfaction for retirement, but possibly delaying retirement for a better lifestyle now.

Here is the question;

Are you drawn to money and benefits over stimulating work, a better lifestyle, or work you would prefer to do? Would you sacrifice some retirement time to gain more enjoyment out of life now? For you older retired folks, If you could go back would you have lived more and saved less even though you would have delayed retirement?

This may be especially relevant now, since even the best plan may not achieve the outcome in the end, which would make earlier sacrifices futile.



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Old 10-21-2008, 10:34 AM   #2
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1968 - The Big Dumb Booster. Now that forty years have passed and the shuttle is getting phased out, and hopefully manned space is getting back on track for the outer planets - I wouldn't mind recapturing my youth and getting back in harness - location and pay being irrelavent.

Like my now deceased ole ex AF buddy - 'if they didn't pay me to show up - I'd have to by a ticket to come watch.'

I was lucky - I had so much fun the first time thru - I wouldn't mind a rerun. Money above a certain point is not that important. However -below a certain point, life gets chewy.

heh heh heh - 30 yrs in New Orleans - spend some, save some, always party when required and live to eat. Now if history would only do it my way!
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Old 10-21-2008, 11:34 AM   #3
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I lived moderately frugally, and have no regrets.

But if I were doing it over I think I would look for a job that had more upside and that was less annoying to me, and tried to break out of the middle income range. There is a lot to be said for a lush life. I just attended my 50th HS reunion. Many of these guys are still working, still having considerable clout, still have plenty of money to throw around, still living in NYC or SF or wherever they want rather than any forced downsizing.

Extreme frugality can produce a narrow gauge person.

ha
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Old 10-21-2008, 11:40 AM   #4
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money neither motivated my career choices nor does it hold much power over my play. but if i take some your post and appropriately substitute people for money, i might come to similar conclusion.

the only reality early retirement helped me escape (or rather, handle) was less the stress of work (which i could have handled on its own) but mostly the stress of my personal life which burdened me so terribly at the time. that period has past.

but i'm a fickle sort, motivated now, apparently, by weather. during the summer i just want to get away from here. hurricane warnings make me want to sell the house. yet now the weather is lovely and i could see myself coming home from a teaching job at three in the afternoon to work out in the garden, having enjoyed a nice lunch that day with a group of colleagues, having summers away where i just close up the house, hope for the best and enjoy two months a year of adventure.

so i think i'm drawn more to people than to money. i'm happier around them, even though you have to put up with a lot of creepy sorts to meet the good ones. in early retirement, i just don't have enough people to play with. as to sacrificing time now for later, i never thought much about later to let it affect my now. and whenever i have, it always turns out that later was not what i thought it would be, so why bother. not sure if i'm an older sort (51) depends on your point of view. but i wouldn't change a thing. even when i look back on many of the bad decisions i made, when i put myself back into those situations, i can see i would have made the same decisions, knowing only what i knew then. that's life.

for me, earning a living in life always meant living within my means and saving part of what i earned. given those conditions, the best way for me to go through life is to live more for the present, whatever future may come.
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Old 10-21-2008, 12:28 PM   #5
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I think the biggest benefit of FIRE is the I - independent. If your life's desire is to bust rocks with a sledge hammer all day, but knew it wouldn't pay the bills, now is your chance. Similarly, you can start a business, create art, consult, whatever and still have the security you need.
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Old 10-21-2008, 12:34 PM   #6
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Apparently you have a lot of company, Canadian Grunt. A lot of people have been posting lately about how much they love working and how they are reluctant to retire. Nothing wrong with that - - just seems to be a trend.

In answer to your questions:
Quote:
Are you drawn to money and benefits over stimulating work, a better lifestyle, or work you would prefer to do?
Stimulating work is highly over-rated, IMO. If you take a job that pays far less, or has lesser benefits, but promises stimulating work, who's to say the work will remain stimulating and fun? If not, then you end up with less pay, fewer benefits, and the same old ratrace.

In college I thought work as a professor and/or researcher would be intellectually stimulating, but found out that for me, the reality of it (other than the creative aspects of coming up with research ideas and writing proposals) can be surprisingly tedious even with research assistants to help out. Personally, I have come to the conclusion that a job is a job. I wish someone had told me that when I was about 20.

As for a better lifestyle, I do not actually want a lot of things. I spend so little that Ha probably wouldn't believe it. But it does help that I do not live in an expensive coastal area, and I do not gravitate towards those who pressure me to buy, buy, buy and get into yuppie-style consumerism.

Those expensive coastal areas are so breath-takingly beautiful, with the sea, the cliffs, and such natural beauty. Or what about Hawaii, where I grew up? It is so intensely beautiful. But I have found more subtle natural beauty abounds even in "flyover country", and I am OK with that. I wouldn't want to pay for the natural beauty of coastal/island regions, with years of my life.

Quote:
Would you sacrifice some retirement time to gain more enjoyment out of life now?
No, not for all the tea in China. I can't think of anything I would enjoy more than doing what I want to do. The only way I can do that is in ER.
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Old 10-21-2008, 12:46 PM   #7
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CG, I think we're in a similar mental place regarding money. I think I'm having a financial mid-life crisis as well. I'm questioning what the value of money is relative to my values, and trying to figure out how I can live my life better and how money fits into that.

During the first part of my life, my focus was on the acquisition of money to prepare for the future (ages 5-20), then on debt reduction (22-33) to feel more secure. Now that I have no debt (mortgage or otherwise) at 34, and DW and I can live on half of my income, I have the luxury of choice.

But I'm having huge trouble wrapping my brain around a career change (lower pay, possibly more enjoyable) or cutting my hours significantly. I'm still in the "security" "gotta-earn-money-now" mindset -- making hay while the sun shines, so to speak.

So, to answer the question, I'm still in the money-and-benefits camp, though I'd like to be in the enjoyable-work camp.
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Old 10-21-2008, 12:58 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Want2retire View Post
Apparently you have a lot of company, Canadian Grunt. A lot of people have been posting lately about how much they love working and how they are reluctant to retire. Nothing wrong with that - - just seems to be a trend.

In answer to your questions:

Stimulating work is highly over-rated, IMO. If you take a job that pays far less, or has lesser benefits, but promises stimulating work, who's to say the work will remain stimulating and fun? If not, then you end up with less pay, fewer benefits, and the same old ratrace.

In college I thought work as a professor and/or researcher would be intellectually stimulating, but found out that for me, the reality of it (other than the creative aspects of coming up with research ideas and writing proposals) can be surprisingly tedious even with research assistants to help out. Personally, I have come to the conclusion that a job is a job. I wish someone had told me that when I was about 20.



No, not for all the tea in China. I can't think of anything I would enjoy more than doing what I want to do. The only way I can do that is in ER.
I mostly enjoy the lifestyle that working offers....my position has always been to work full time to at least 55, it's just I am re-evaluating the save at all cost mentality....it becomes a sickness, very hard to get out of. I have come to the conclusion I have no desire to live a compressed lifestyle for the sake of a future that will be uncertain, when with some thought I can live a higher lifestyle now and use benefits of the workplace to increase my downtime.

Now don't get me wrong, I have no desire to live beyond my means, however, the level at which I now live and the level to which I can raise myself by moderating my savings habit is quite a difference.

The lifestyle change will be significant, and if I work part-time from 55-60 my retirement will be much better than could be achieved by compressing my work years, and my lifestyle now and into the future will be greatly improved.

My work offers a 3 month and 1 year leave of absence which I plan to take. As well I can use leave income averaging which could give me an extra 5 weeks a year off at the cost of about $200.00 a month....there are many options to early retirement I am exploring that give me flexibility and an increased lifestyle without increasing my workload.

I am running through the debate in my head, scrimp and get out early, or save moderately and live to my full potential.
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Old 10-21-2008, 01:15 PM   #9
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Maybe you just need to cut back on the LBYM a little, then. I do buy myself something I want now and then, usually something along the lines of the $129 camera I bought last week rather than a boat or plane for much more. Maybe you need a "present" from you to yourself once every month or so, like that.

I felt a need for one due to the economic decline, believe it or not. It makes no sense to buy something for that reason, but it got my mind off of the Dow for a while.

Here's a photo from the French Quarter on Saturday. Life is beautiful and rewarding.
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Old 10-21-2008, 01:26 PM   #10
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I live in a city that is full of trees and walkways...life indeed is good. I plan on rewarding myself with a new Harley, although the cost will be mitigated with the sale of my old one


Maybe part of the problem is I haven't taken a real meaningful vacation in 4 years...last one was a months diving in Thailand...I feel guilty spending the money...oversaving is a sickness
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Old 10-21-2008, 01:44 PM   #11
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We should all try to find what makes us happy. As long as there is no regret, there is no wrong answer.

I have lived relatively frugally most of my life. I don't regret it. Frugality is a deeply ingrained value for me. I don't need adventures or throwing money around to feel like I am enjoying life (tried it, doesn't do a thing for me). I don't care about expensive cars, big houses, expensive watches or foreign travel. In fact, my dream life would be to live in a 800 sq ft condo in a small town, drive a small but sporty car (VW golf GTI) and never ever again set foot on an airplane or a boat. There are a few luxuries I would be hard pressed to do without, but overall I don't need much. My pleasures are simple and cost little money. I know, some people think that my life is boring, so what, that's my life and I am not going to apologize for it. And you shouldn't apologize for your choices either.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:03 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Canadian Grunt View Post
Are you drawn to money and benefits over stimulating work, a better lifestyle, or work you would prefer to do? Would you sacrifice some retirement time to gain more enjoyment out of life now? For you older retired folks, If you could go back would you have lived more and saved less even though you would have delayed retirement?
"Stimulating work" was great for the first half of my career. (No one joins the military to get rich, although the benefits are a big sales pitch). That immediately changed when we became parents. I'm all for stimulating work, but my bosses (mostly absentee parents) made it exceedingly clear that the work (stimulating or not) would always take precedence over parenting. Oh the stories.

Maybe Bob Clyatt would have hit the NYT bestseller list with a title like "Save Less, Live More". But in this economy, maybe not.

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I have come to the conclusion I have no desire to live a compressed lifestyle for the sake of a future that will be uncertain, when with some thought I can live a higher lifestyle now and use benefits of the workplace to increase my downtime.
I lived a fairly compressed lifestyle for nearly 25 years. One of my biggest regrets of that period is that I couldn't (or wouldn't) take the time to make the research effort to switch careers to a lower-stress lifestyle, although I was surrounded by people (mainly Reservists) who'd managed to make the transition just fine. In each case I felt that my sunk costs would be lost to starting over. Hindsight reality is that it wouldn't have been as painful or as career-ending as we thought.

As a nuclear submariner I was capable of enduring, even thriving, under a fairly high level of constant stress punctuated by brief periods of sheer panic. Even today I'm taken aback by the "little things" that cause people to freak out. But when I developed a personal core value that directly conflicted with that high-stress lifestyle, it became unsustainable. I would suspect that if a guy like me found "compression" to be stressful then perhaps it's not a viable option for the other 99.9% of the workforce.

As for "benefits of the workplace"... one of the key headslapping moments ("D'oh!!") leading to my spouse's resignation from active duty (a few weeks short of 18 years of service) was when we found ourselves seriously discussing the beneficial qualities of the family-counseling psychiatrists & mental-health staff at the Yokosuka Naval Hospital. When we realized that this was part of the costs of continuing on active duty, it didn't take her very long to fax in that resignation letter. Life immediately became better than either of us would have ever believed possible, and after a career of dealing with the military's assignment officers it's quite schadenfreude to exact your vengeance by living well.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:14 PM   #13
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We should all try to find what makes us happy. As long as there is no regret, there is no wrong answer.

I have lived relatively frugally most of my life. I don't regret it. Frugality is a deeply ingrained value for me. I don't need adventures or throwing money around to feel like I am enjoying life (tried it, doesn't do a thing for me). I don't care about expensive cars, big houses, expensive watches or foreign travel. In fact, my dream life would be to live in a 800 sq ft condo in a small town, drive a small but sporty car (VW golf GTI) and never ever again set foot on an airplane or a boat. There are a few luxuries I would be hard pressed to do without, but overall I don't need much. My pleasures are simple and cost little money. I know, some people think that my life is boring, so what, that's my life and I am not going to apologize for it. And you shouldn't apologize for your choices either.
I am much the same. I have all I need, and most of what I want. I spend less than most people believe possible. When my CD ladder 'matures' (this December) I think I shall start giving more to charity.

My pension would have been much larger had I stayed until the 30 year mark, but I might have had a stroke before then. I figure my early retirement cost me ~$20,000/year. This peace and quiet and happiness is worth every #$%^ dollar.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:19 PM   #14
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I live in a city that is full of trees and walkways...life indeed is good. I plan on rewarding myself with a new Harley, although the cost will be mitigated with the sale of my old one


Maybe part of the problem is I haven't taken a real meaningful vacation in 4 years...last one was a months diving in Thailand...I feel guilty spending the money...oversaving is a sickness
No vacation in four years? There's your problem. But don't "throw the baby out with the bathwater" and totally ditch your LBYM ways. I'll bet you would feel a lot happier after a vacation and a little relaxing of the LBYM.
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Old 10-21-2008, 04:23 PM   #15
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I quit a good-paying job and sidelined a promising career to stay home with our kids. A significant part of that decision was to increase our quality of life. I wasn't willing to grind down our spirits or our family life for money. Living below our means made a higher quality of life now possible.

It's been a difficult journey but a brilliant decision.

Once the kids are in school full-time I'll probably go back to work part-time so that we can accelerate retirement savings. However, balance is first and foremost in our minds. We make sure we take time for things that are fun, including vacations. We have small kids so our vacations aren't usually posh, but they're leisurely. I see little point in rushing through a high-stress vacation.

We're saving up for a few weeks in an Irish cottage in a couple of years. Looking forward to that!
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Old 10-21-2008, 04:32 PM   #16
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Nords hit it right on for me....

I just began my terminal leave (83 days) on the 10th of October. I went to the Cowboys-Cardinals game in Arizona, then got on a plane from Phoenix and flew to Orlando (Walt Disney World) and competited in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship where I finished T10th out of 96 in my flight. Then I flew back home and drove to New Mexico where I am relaxing and enjoying not having to wake up and work!

Will it get old? I don't really see it happening. I enjoy playing golf for $10 green fees and walking the course. When the weather is bad, I will find something to do. I am gonna finish up my Bachelors Degree (only 2 classes to go!) and then possibly work on my Masters or another Bachelors Degree. Heck...I have my whole GI Bill to use for 10 years and why waste $40,000 of the governments money?? I also plan on substitute teaching and ref/umpiring games as much as possible.

After 20+ years of doing what others tell me to do....It is time for me to be able to tell myself what to do!
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Old 10-21-2008, 04:46 PM   #17
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I just began my terminal leave (83 days)...
Congratulations! That sort of accomplishment is all too rare in the "we can't live without you" duty section.

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... Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship where I finished T10th out of 96 in my flight.
You really need to read Jarhead*'s golfing posts and track him down to fine-tune a plan of supplementing your retirement income through lightening the wallets of overoptimistic golfers. Doesn't the GI Bill pay for that degree in golf-course management, followed by tour school?
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Old 10-21-2008, 05:08 PM   #18
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I daydream way too much about ER but I do try to find relatively inexpensive ways to enhance my enjoyment while still working. This helps distract me from dreaming any more than I already do and keeps me from being miserable while chained to the desk. Some of the things I do to keep my sanity are:

1. Take at least one adventurous or unique vacation a year. I do extensive research to find ways to get the most out of the vacation for the least amount of money.
2. While working I join at least one class or group per year so I feel that I have learned or accomplished something other than just working another year.
3. Keep a list of goals or skills to work on and mastered by the time I reach ER. Things such as be able to do home repairs myself, understand investing, learn to sail, learn Spanish, be a better swimmer, research ultra light camping gear, cook better.

I have opted to choose money and benefits over lower paid stimulating work as I have found that no matter how stimulating the work is, you are still required to give up your time. There are always requirements of work that cause you to have to sacrifice other opportunities. You are never free to do as you wish when working. I also have found most any of my jobs can be stimulating if I have the right mindset. Most jobs have some degree of flexibility to allow you to contribute in innovative ways. I equate FIRE with FREEDOM and the sooner I get there the better!
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Old 10-22-2008, 04:55 PM   #19
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I have opted to choose money and benefits over lower paid stimulating work as I have found that no matter how stimulating the work is, you are still required to give up your time. There are always requirements of work that cause you to have to sacrifice other opportunities. You are never free to do as you wish when working. I also have found most any of my jobs can be stimulating if I have the right mindset. Most jobs have some degree of flexibility to allow you to contribute in innovative ways.
I have always been told this by people and the more time I am in the workforce, the more I believe it....work is work...attitude seems to be a lot of it...I have seen so many people that thought the grass was greener on the other side and ended up back where they were.....I frankly cannot think of a lower paying job that I would rather have....
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Old 11-05-2008, 06:22 PM   #20
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Truth be known I enjoy work. Maybe not the work I am currently doing but work in general. I know this may be heresy on this board but that’s Ok.
Very thought provoking thread. I agree with you. I enjoy work, too. Especially if you can create some value. It's the idiots I work for that drives me to ER or at least the freedom to choose. Case in point, I was given a job 3 weeks ago that was a disaster. As I dig into it, of course it is worse than we thought.

Six days later, we turn the project around, but there are still challenges. Now I have two of our great "leaders" in my face, saying dumb things, like "you're accountable", etc. They will waste two hours of my time in a meeting just drilling me. They spend their time worrying about power point font. Rarely do they say, "where can I help?" It gets old.
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